Category Archives: wmmr

Lost Hits of the New Wave #29

“Bop ‘Til You Drop” by Rick Springfield

There was a time when Rick Springfield was cool, we may all want desperately to want to forget it, but it’s true. Memory is a tricky thing. We may want to remember Rick Springfield as bubble gum pop, but there was a time he was considered not only rock, but even a little tiny bit new wave. I heard “Jessie’s Girl” for the first time on WMMR, and follow-ups “Affair of the Heart,” and the two videos featured here, all on WYSP during their new music hour.

Rick Springfield was impossibly huge in the early 1980s, between his music career, appearances on “General Hospital,” and even a feature film Hard to Hold, before vanishing into semi-obscurity.

The truth is that he had been around a long time before his ‘overnight success,’ was a minor pop idol and even had his own Saturday morning cartoon in the 1970s. And after, he was the original “Forever Knight,” the original “Human Target,” and released what I think his best album, Tao.

I fully agree with my online friend DJ Marilyn Thomas, “Bop ‘Til You Drop” is a New Wave song, no matter what you say, you selective memory music heathens.

And then there’s this one…

“Human Touch” by Rick Springfield

Rocker trying desperately to be new wave in a music video, trying to capitalize on the odd music video fashions of the time, pretending it’s the future, and looking uncomfortable the whole time – check. For a long time, this was what music videos looked like. At least it’s not…

“You Got Lucky” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Wow, the future looked kinda bleak in the early 1980s…

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The End of an Era

Yesterday WYSP-FM changed their format and call letters to all sports and WIP-FM. I’m not a big sports fan other than Wings lacrosse and sometimes the Philadelphia Eagles or Dallas Cowboys (you know where to send the hate mail), I think it’s unfair for me to ask why we need another sports station in Philly, but there it is, ya know? It’s not the first time WYSP has changed formats, but never so drastic a change before.

I grew up with WYSP, from when I first became aware of FM radio in the mid-seventies to when I fell away from terrestrial radio a few years back and discovered the more eclectic satellite radio. In the radio wasteland of Philadelphia, WYSP was always the cooler, hipper choice when compared to direct rival WMMR and distant competitor WIOQ. I envisioned stoned ex-hippies at the former and future NPR listeners at the latter, whereas WYSP listeners seemed like either myself, or folks I wanted to hang out with. WYSP always had the new, newer and newest music and trends.

WYSP was originally the FM version of AM pop/rock station WIBG, and its call letters stood for “Your Station in Philadelphia.” It started rocking in the early 1970s and quickly became WMMR’s biggest competition. As I mentioned, WYSP always seemed to have newer music and harder rock than WMMR. Those that listened could usually tell the difference with hearing a DJ or a station ID. WYSP was the first place I heard DEVO, Adam and the Ants, the Sex Pistols, Joan Armatrading, and even Rick Springfield.

When WYSP had news, it was cool news, same with the talk. I remember the Source days with Cyndy Drue, the Dr. Demento show and the Comedy Hour on Sunday nights. I remember the engineer who did the dead-on Mr. Rogers imitation and recorded versions of “Cat Scratch Fever” and “Iron Man.” I remember Ask Anita. I remember listening to “Innerview” with Jim Ladd, as he talked with Roger Waters about what “The Wall” was really about, and when he interviewed Ray Manzarek telling apocryphal tales of the late Jim Morrison. I remember learning of John Lennon’s death from WYSP.

I remember the Howard Stern years, along with the Opie and Anthony years. I remember the two weeks after 9/11 when WYSP was all talk, taking calls from listeners twenty-four hours a day and letting them vent, grieve or just talk. This is not as sad as that, but it like losing a lifetime friend. Even if I haven’t seen you in a while, you were a friend. I will miss you, WYSP, and so will all of Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Goodbye, old friend…

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Doug Fieger of The Knack Passes Away

Sad news yesterday as it was announced that Doug Fieger, lead singer of The Knack, passed away at the age of 57 after an extended battle with cancer.

The Knack burst onto the scene in 1979 with their debut album “Get the Knack” and the mega-hit of that year – “My Sharona.” I was just a teenager at the time and one of those dopey kids who was addicted to his radio, and took it with me everywhere. I loved music and was always running up and down the dial listening to whatever I could find. While “My Sharona” is now considered to be pop music by today’s standards – as someone who was there, let me tell you – it was everywhere. The single got equal massive play on not just the top 40 stations, but also the rock, disco (there were still a few left) and the R&B stations.

Back in those days of the dueling rock giants of Philadelphia, WMMR and WYSP used to have entire weekends dedicated to single musical groups. While Yes and Genesis often had to share the spotlight for a weekend, even though together they had dozens of albums to their credit – The Knack, with only one album, was featured with their own weekend on more than a few occasions. That is how big The Knack was.

Also, if you watch VH-1 with any regularity with their multiple nostalgia countdowns, they’ll tell you that The Knack was a one-hit wonder with “My Sharona.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. “Get the Knack” also featured the follow-up single “Good Girls Don’t,” which topped the request lines all during 1979 as well. The Knack’s second album “…But the Little Girls Understand,” borrowing from an old Doors lyric which itself borrowed from an even older blues tune, was one of 1980’s most anticipated albums. It only managed to put one single, “Baby Talks Dirty” on the charts however. From there, Doug Fieger and The Knack faded into obscurity.

They didn’t disappear completely though. Doug Fieger showed up by himself on the “Born to Laugh at Tornadoes” album by Was (Not Was) in 1983 doing lead vocals on two tracks. The Knack resurfaced briefly in 1991 with the rock single “Rocket O’ Love,” a song that I was quite fond of. “My Sharona” also popped back into the charts twice since its initial release after being used in movies.

Doug Fieger, and The Knack, were a major part of music in the 1980s, a slice of time in between the rock and disco of the 1970s and the new wave that was to come. Another rocker has passed on and will be missed.

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Land of the Lost

Land of the Lost ~ ”Marshall, Will and Holly, on a routine expedition, met the greatest earthquake ever known…”

And so began the opening of one of the more innovative series ever to grace Saturday mornings. Created by Sid and Marty Krofft, notorious for Saturday morning kids fare that seemed to be acid-induced like “H.R. Pufnstuf,” “Lidsville” and “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters,” “Land of the Lost” was different.

The series, in the first two seasons at least (we will not speak of the Uncle Jack episodes), featured a solid science fiction premise, which is no wonder with folks like David Gerrold, Larry Niven, Ben Bova, D.C. Fontana, Norman Spinrad, Theodore Sturgeon and Walter Koenig involved in its production.

The premise involved a family on a camping vacation dropped into a place outside of time and space, structured by dimensional portals that controlled every aspect of the world, which was populated by dinosaurs, cave people called Pakuni (the writers even created a 200-word language for them) and hissing lizard-like inhabitants called Sleestak. The world had a very precise internal continuity and logic, and the well-written stories (despite the drinking game that can be had every time someone yells the kids’ names or Dad touches one of them) more than made up for the sometimes less-than-adequate special effects. This was the 1970s after all.

The show is held in high regard by many, including comedian Will Ferrell, who coincidentally played a character named Federal Wildlife Marshal Willenholly in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Now, in this 2009 feature film version of “Land of the Lost,” he gets to play the real thing.

Now, I’ve never been a fan of Ferrell’s comedy, either on “Saturday Night Live” or in film (although I did like his semi-serious turns in Winter Passing and Stranger than Fiction), so I was a bit distressed when I heard he would be starring in this obviously comedic take on the classic scifi series. It should also be noted, and not forgotten, he also had a hand in another TV remake for the big screen – the better-off-forgotten Bewitched.

The preview was at the dreaded Cherry Hill AMC Loews, where it was sponsored by at least four media outlets. WXPN (the only terrestrial radio station in town worth listening to any more) gave us the passes but they weren’t there. Glenn Kalina, now doing mornings for 97.5 Now, has looked better, and seemed so thrilled doing the pre-show trivia and giveaways. Maybe a bit more caffeine, Glenn.

Vittoria from the ‘CW Crew’ had considerably more energy, as did the nameless dude from WMMR. And props to him too for telling people to turn their damned cellphones off. I also had issue with one of his trivia questions. He asked what MMR stood for and took the answer ‘Means More Rock’ – but really, isn’t the answer ‘Metro Media Radio’?

The film begins (and ends) with the Matt Lauer bit that we’ve all seen in the previews, and thus starts the pattern of every other typical Will Ferrell slob comedy. All my hopes from seeing interviews from Sid and Marty Krofft that this was “a respectable, serious take” on their property are dashed pretty quickly on. When pee-pee and poo-poo jokes are given more screen time than the actual plot or character development, the truth is pretty much splashed on the wall.

There are a couple funny bits, I’ll admit it. Chaka is a hoot, and a far cry from the innocent ape-child of the TV series. And Leonard Nimoy doing his best George Takei impersonation while voicing the Zarn is hilarious. What hurts most is that this could have been a serious adaptation. The effects are here, and so are all the elements. It’s all here. Fans of the show can see all the trademarks of the show – Pylons, Sleestak, the Library of Skulls, the Pakuni language, Grumpy, Alice, the Altrusian moths, even Holly’s Dopey speech. It’s all here.

Anna Friel, of “Pushing Daisies,” using her real accent for once is fun, as is Danny McBride of HBO’s “Eastbound & Down.” And I really liked the revamping of the Sleestak, nice updated design. This film is similar to “Smallville” when compared to its source material, the old Superboy comic books. Some of the names and situations are the same – but it’s completely different.

This was an okay movie for free, and funny and fun occasionally. Will Ferrell fans will love it, unfortunately I’m not one of them.

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Robert Hazard 1948-2008

Philadelphia hometown hero and musician Robert Hazard passed away yesterday due to complications from pancreatic cancer. He would have been 60 later this month. The singer/songwriter will be greatly missed. In the 1980s he epitomized the Philadelphia music scene, ruling South Street at the Ripley Dance Club.

He became nationally known as the writer of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and also with his own ‘new wave’ one-hit wonder, “Escalator of Life.” It may have been a one-hit wonder for the rest of the world but folks in Philly had been hearing his music for years. His first EP, named after himself and his band, the Heroes, featured radio staples like “Change Reaction,” “Hang Around with You” and “Out of the Blue,” but these were all songs we all knew for years listening to WMMR and WYSP.

An Addendum for WYSP

An addendum, a correction and perhaps a not-so-polite request to get your head out of your ass to WYSP-FM.

Within WYSP’s not-yet-two-hours old new format they have been running interesting bits between the songs.

For instance, the announcer says that on such-and-such a date WMMR played “Heart of Glass” by Blondie. They only play rock on YSP, blah blah blah, etc.

Nice ploy, considering that WMMR and WYSP have been bitter rivals and competitors in the Philadelphia radio market for well over three decades.

The problem with that promotion is that it is, of course, pure bullshit.

Yes, WMMR might very well have played “Heart of Glass” maybe half a dozen times in its history, but if they did, I guarantee it was because WYSP did it first. They did it to keep up.

Anyone who was around in the late seventies and early eighties can easily tell you how it was with WMMR and WYSP. MMR was the dinosaur, playing Grateful Dead, Traffic and Eric Clapton until the cows came home. YSP was the innovator, testing the edge and always at least trying to be progressive. MMR listeners sat in the sun and smoked pot while YSP listeners were out dancing and hitting clubs.

I have tapes made from the radio that prove as much. WYSP played Blondie, they played Adam and the Ants. Also Devo, Talking Heads, the Clash, Elvis Costello, even, ahem, Rick Springfield. I have tape proof, remember? I heard my first Sex Pistols song on WYSP. WYSP was always on the verge of the new.

It was only when WIFI 92 changed from top 40 to new wave in 1982 that WMMR decided it had better get in gear and pay attention because music had changed. But before then, it was all WYSP.

So, WYSP, do your homework and quit lying to the public. And maybe if you did start playing some of that music you used to play circa 1980, more folks would listen.

Cyndy Drue, where are you now that we need you?

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The Rock Is Back

The rock is back.

Um, yeah.

*yawn*

Just in time. ‘Cause I just got XM Radio for my birthday.

At 5 PM today WYSP 94 FM in Philadelphia changed its format. Again. Now we’re back to rock, progressive hard rock from all indications, and away from talk as it had been for a few months. Two hours into the the Kidd Chris Show, with guests Opie & Anthony in town for a special event, the format changed. The first three songs played were “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns ‘n’ Roses, “Back in Black” by AC/DC and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana as if to strengthen the point. Most notably, Kidd Chris did not come back to finish his show.

Now I’m a talk radio fan just as much as I’m a radio fan. I love music and I love radio.

I was the kid in high school who carried a boombox with me everywhere. I was the kid who knew all the new music, sometimes before the radio played it. I knew and listened to every station on the dial FM and AM. I bought everything and made mix-tapes on an almost daily basis. In college I embarked on dual careers in radio and in music journalism. I have several thousands of songs on my iTunes and reload my iPod almost daily. Nothing makes me happier than my music. So another decent music station in the normally dead zone of Philadelphia radio is a good thing, right?

Maybe.

As I said I’m also a talk radio fan. I’ve been one since the mid-1970s listening to Larry King and then WWDB-FM with their all-talk format. I know talk show hosts as well as I know music. I have as many fond memories of Irv Homer and Richard Hayes as I do of Kate Bush and David Bowie. Over the years, talk radio flourished and changed, mostly in part to the wildly successful efforts of Howard Stern, along with his imitators and innovators. Stern at WYSP soon led to Opie & Anthony coming there as well. My tastes soon followed, more in line with O&A than Stern.

When Stern left for Sirius satellite radio, some said that was the end of terrestrial radio. Having listened to David Lee Roth, who replaced Howard here in Philly, I would tend to agree. Fortunately O&A returned to replace Roth, and suddenly I didn’t miss Stern all that much anymore, if at all.

The part that excited me was that along with the return of O&A, WYSP seemed to be making a stand as a talk station. The Barsky Show that followed O&A was certainly better than the immature tripe going on over at NJ 101.5 FM and had a fun quality to it, always enjoyable to have on. Even Matt & Huggy had an endearing quality. My real faves though had to be Loveline and John and Jeff shows that covered overnights.

I love Loveline, not just for the information given or the entertainment value of the hosts and guests, but for the callers. Callers to these types of shows are demented. The same appeal holds for me with both Drs. Joy and laura, neither host do I like, but their callers provide me with hours of entertainment. I’ll also miss John and Jeff who were an intriguing second choice when Coast to Coast AM had an uninteresting topic that night.

Of course all of this is a shame. I highly doubt WYSP’s new rock format will be enough to regain the ratings edge they may have lost, and no matter how good the music is, it won’t anywhere near as interesting as any talk program could be. I wish them luck, because other than listening to an Eagles game in the car I probably won’t be listening to WYSP again in the near future.

As I said, I recent got XM satellite radio. With that I can listen to Opie and Anthony (as well as full broadcasts of Coast to Coast – damn you 1210 AM) so I don’t see much use any longer in WYSP. And besides, there’s so much programming I’d rather listen to on the XM, I don’t need many terrestrial stations that much anymore.

Shame. Good luck, WYSP.

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